RA & I – the sequel: NIFF part 1

Three and a half years ago, I had the opportunity of meeting Richard Armitage in person at The Old Vic’s stage door in London after a performance of The Crucible. Two days ago, I had the pleasure of meeting him again, this time at the Newcastle International Film Festival (NIFF)! I’ve been excited about going there and meeting him for a week or so leading up to this after I decided, on an impulse, to go! I should listen to my impulses more often… 🙂

I flew in to Newcastle on an early morning flight from Amsterdam on Saturday morning, landing at 8.45 am. The weather in Amsterdam had been lovely but the weather in Newcastle was less so – it was grey and wet! I got into the city and walked around a bit, first around Monument where I had gotten off the metro, then into the charming Grainger Market which is roofed and was dry but still quiet because it was still early, and I took a peek at the Central Arcade.

It was so wet, I then decided to escape the rain for a cup of chai tea latte at Costas. Perfect place to warm up and get my bearings…

I stayed there for quite a while, just watching the world pass me by, which was lovely, and then decided to brave the weather again. I walked down to the bridges, doing my best to juggle a small back pack, my handbag, a fold-up umbrella and my camera. Suffice it to say, pics didn’t quite come out as planned, also because I had to keep on drying my camera lens. Anyway, despite the rain and the not so great pics, I had a lovely time walking around!

At 12.30 I walked to a city center hotel where I met up with Hariclea, whom I have met before and who was staying there. A little while later a fellow-fan, Linda Sechzig, joined us.  She and Hari already knew each other and we both met Judit. Then Ella from the Nellindreams blog joined us as well soon after. Such lovely ladies! Judit went to her hotel for a bit and the rest of us set off for a nearby restaurant for lunch. We had real English food, steak and guinness pies and fish and chips, and got to know each other a little better which was fun! The 3 ladies I had lunch with were staying in the same hotel. I was in another hotel a little to the north of the center, so we separated and went to our respective hotels to check in and freshen up.

At 5.30 pm we all met up at the Mining Institute, where the Actors on Actors session with Caroline Goodall interviewing Richard Armitage would be taking place. While waiting in line I also briefly met Christine Loy who is a native Geordie, all of this was happening in her home town! At 6 pm we were ushered into this small, old-fashioned, charming lecture hall, which was wood panelled all around. I was so excited, I didn’t think to take any pictures of the room, but I found a nice one online, so you can get an idea of what it looks like.

Mining Institute lecture hall
Source

First impression was that this was quite tiny and it was quite warm in there too. I think there were less than 100 people there, maybe 75-80?  They told us to not sit in the first row, so Hariclea, Linda and I sat in the second row on the left, with Ella and Judit right behind us. Our view on the empty chairs was this one, and I wondered if Richard would be sitting on the throne, befitting a king under the mountain…

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No one came to sit in front of us, so in effect we were sitting in the front row! Eek! This also meant that I did not feel comfortable taking out my large camera. My camera clicks every time I take a picture and the lens is a zoom one, so larger than a regular lens, and I immediately knew it would feel intrusive if I sat there clicking away. So, for this session, I decided to just use my phone. We were asked to not take any pictures during the interview as the whole thing was being taped (wonder when and where we will get to see the whole thing online!); if we wanted to take pictures we could do so at the beginning while they settled in. So, I did just that. I positioned my phone on my lap and just pressed the button for a picture every now and again. I didn’t use a flash (again, intrusive) so many pictures turned out somewhat blurry, but I’ll share them (the ones that aren’t too blurry in any case) here.

They also asked us to not keep Richard up for too long after the session as he had to be somewhere else right after. Just like most of us, we joked, which got some laughs and the announcer laughed as well. She said there’d be an opportunity to meet and greet Richard after the Urban premiere. That sounded good!

Shortly after, Richard and Caroline made their way down. They walked right past me, virtually brushing me as they walked by. There was a little looking around, figuring what chairs to sit in. Richard joked about wanting to sit on the throne then said it would be awkward and decided for the smaller chair beside it instead (click on images to enlarge, goes for all the images I post here that are grouped together)…

So, he sat down and they settled in while I just tapped away on my phone, taking pictures…

And some more pictures…

Caroline briefly introduced Richard, saying what a nice man he was, how she so very much enjoyed working with him even if they had only shared one scene in Berlin Station and how he has become a friend. She is one of the organizers of NIFF and said that Richard had been eager to come and support the festival and the Urban film. He had told the organizers to not bother with the logistics of getting him there, he would make his way there on his own. She really sang his praises and Richard just let it wash over him. Then the interview began and Richard started talking with his hands (and I put my phone away)…

Speaking of Richard’s hands, and general appearance. He is tall but also sleek and I think because of that he almost looks slight! He is well-groomed and his hands are indeed mesmerizing, they are not only expressive but they look soft as well. I saw a lot of him in profile and it reiterated yet again just how much I love his profile and that prominent, sleek nose! I also loved his outfit, he looked so very dashing with that leather jacket and Hari totally fell in love with his shirt.

The interview will I hope soon come online somewhere and Dorothea over on her ‘Just wanna say’ blog has already given a nice short summary of some of the things that were discussed. So, I’ll just mention the stuff that stuck with me most from that interview.

The first half of the interview was pretty much all stuff we had heard before and, yes, even the circus was mentioned and how Richard realized that if he wasn’t smiling more doing musical theater it meant he wasn’t enjoying it as he should. He also mentioned the death scene in The Hobbit, after Caroline had told him how much that scene moved her to tears. He mentioned how he insisted on lying there undisturbed for 3 hours while the scene was being filmed and how later the crew had started putting down little crosses and flowers to commemorate the spot of Thorin’s death. The thing I didn’t know (I don’t think) is that the back injury he had while auditioning for Thorin was an injury that still bothers him!

I didn’t mind the repetition of familiar stories in the first half of this session so much, as it meant I could focus on observing. It did get more interesting in the second half, though.

There was a very interesting discussion about Richard living in New York. ‘Life’ had taken him there and he still feels it is a good place to be for his career, nicely in the middle between LA and London. He spoke of the fact that as he grows older, he is more aware of how rooted he is in England. He spoke of the difference between American and English film and TV. He felt that in the US it was all more focussed on psychology where in England it is all more focussed on storytelling. He said that attitudes are different as well, in the US it really is a film industry and you have to act more businesslike to get what you want whereas in England you basically just take anything because you’re glad to be working as an actor at all. He mentioned how his American accent was getting better and then laughingly asked Caroline whether she remembered he had tried his US accent out on her and she had thought it was his Irish accent! It was funny but had been a slightly sobering moment as well for him.

There was talk of salaries and he insisted that he never ever picked a project just for the money. He said he had done some things to help open doors but that basically it is always the project itself that attracts him and not the money. Sometimes he is surprised he gets paid for something he enjoys doing so much. There was talk of what genres he likes and he mentioned how surprised he is to have done many violent roles when he himself is not a violent man at all. He mentioned that he had done just about enough spy roles. I guess that means that those who may be rooting for James Bond for Richard may have to let that dream go… He also mentioned how he never wanted to do horror and especially horror involving children and yet he has just finished making a horror movie called The Lodge which also involves children! He understands the irony but says the movie is more psychological thriller than horror and he was excited to be working with the people making the movie.

His future plans were interesting to hear. My Zoe with Julie Delpy is still happening! He was in awe of how Julie Delpy can produce, direct and act all in one. He mentioned how he’d love to be able to multitask like that. He says Sandra Bullock also has the multitasking talent, how incredible she was on the Oceans 8 movie that is coming up. He says he always intends to pay attention and tries to get involved with all aspects of a movie (directing and producing) but in the end finds that all his attention gets sucked up into the acting and he can’t do anything else besides that.

He mentioned still wanting to do Bridget Cleary, although it wasn’t clear how far any of that is production-wise. He mentioned collaborating with Yael Farber again and possibly getting their version of The Crucible filmed; it had been a while since the Daniel Day-Lewis version and they still need permission from the Arthur Miller estate. They also want to do Oedipus together, but on film and not stage, as Faber is trying her hand at film directing now. When asked if he wanted to do anything period, he mentioned how he suddenly of late has this very strong feeling he should do something with Charles II, that he strongly feels the relevance it has in the world today, that it also has something to say to the current political climate in the west. I don’t know anything about Charles II off-hand, will have to look into that.

When asked if he wanted to do any plays of current new exciting English writers, he said absolutely, but it didn’t seem like something he was actively pursuing right now. He was also asked who his acting heroes were, he immediately answered Gary Oldman and how deserved it was that he had won ‘that prize’. He loves how Gary Oldman can disappear into a role.

I’m thinking there may have been more, but I can’t quite remember now, off the top of my head. The whole interview lasted about 45 minutes and it was just absolutely wonderful hearing the man talk and seeing him up close and personal like that. He is very relaxed and pleasant, but I get a sense of shyness from him as well. He looks at the person asking a question and pays attention to them while answering but while talking he also lowers his eyes a lot or looks around but rarely fixing his eyes on the general audience he is talking to. I found that endearing in a way. He’s not an outgoing performer personality, like say Tom Hiddleston is, he is more reserved. Of course, I knew that already, but more than ever I got that sensitive artist vibe from him.

The talk over, everyone got up and I snapped a few more blurry pictures with my phone (and Caroline threw on a sweater)…

Hariclea, Linda and I were just about the last ones to file out after Richard left. Caroline Goodall was also one of the last to leave, and as we were so near to her, I thanked her for the interview and said we’d really enjoyed it. She seemed pleased.

Out in the hall we saw that Richard had been stopped for some pictures after all…

… but he was soon whisked away in the hustle and bustle of it all, on to the next location. Hariclea had arranged for a taxi to get us to the next location as well and when we came out, the taxi was awaiting us. The five of us climbed in to be driven to the Biscuit Factory where the Urban premiere would be. More about that in my next post, as this one has gotten so long already! So, don’t worry, NIFF report is continued here… 🙂

Richard @NIFF (& me)

So, Richard Armitage is coming to the Newcastle International Film Festival (NIFF) next week, it has been confirmed, and he will be present at 2 events on Saturday, March 31st! First off he’ll be talking with Caroline Goodall about acting (that’s from 6 – 7 pm) and after that there will be the premiere of Urban and the Shed Crew (from 7 – 10pm) including a conversation with cast and crew.

I got curious – these events are planned back to back but at different locations, would there, as a Richard Armitage fan, be a way to attend both events? So, my curiosity piqued, I found this on Google Maps…

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So, it’s a 21 minute walk between locations. If one event ends at 7 pm and the other starts at 7 pm, the time you have to get from A to B is very tight. But, I understand the premiere of Urban starts with drinks and yeah, that could be skipped. Yesterday evening I filled in the festival contact form saying I’d be going to both events (although in reality I wasn’t actually planning to go as yet) and in the feedback message was told it could take up to 4 days to receive a reply. I then went on to research some more: how much, in theory, would a flight from Amsterdam to Newcastle cost and could I, in theory, find a cheap hotel room for the night? I’d just need to sleep somewhere dry and warm and I’m quite an easy sleeper, so no luxury necessary. I found my answers but then filed it away because I figured that if it takes 4 days to hear back then it’ll all be too late anyhow and all the good deals for flights and hotels will be gone anyhow.

This afternoon, when I finally got around to checking my personal e-mail, I was surprised by a quick reply from NIFF that they had sent this morning! Here’s what they said…NIFF2

So, Urban will start its actual screening at 7.45 pm which leaves 45 minutes to get from the first venue to the second. That means that, in theory, it is doable to attend both Richard Armitage events! I was telling Mr Esther about it and he said, “just book it already!” I checked the tickets for both events (still available) and the flight (not quite as cheap as hoped but still manageable and available for the same price as the night before) and the hotel room (one single room left, hotel is about 1 km away, a little over half a mile, from the city center). Before I knew it I had booked a trip and I have tickets to both Richard Armitage events!

NIFFI am justifying this as a birthday present for me (my birthday is on April 3rd) and Mr Esther agrees. That does cancel out the new laptop he had been thinking of getting me… yeah, I think I’m OK with choosing seeing Richard live in action over a new laptop. I can cope with this old thing for another year. 🙂 I really hope it will be worth it! And if not, hey, I’ll have had a mini-break on my own, which is always fun and feels like a luxury in itself.

Mr Esther and I lived together in Newcastle once for 5 months, back when we were students in the 1990s doing our internships there. Last summer (on a rainy day) we stood in front of the ground floor flat that we had rented all those years ago…

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… and we briefly walked through the center of town and had dinner there…

We were really just passing through and were hardly there long enough to get properly re-acquainted. I find I have forgotten a lot about Newcastle so, besides seeing Richard in the flesh again, it will be really nice to get re-acquainted again with the city!